Central Florida

Stop at little known Lake Griffin State Park for a famous tree and more

Stop at little known Lake Griffin State Park for a famous tree and more

A very old, very big live oak tree inspired me to stop at this park near the Villages in Central Florida, and I found it to be a nice place to picnic, paddle and take a short hike.

Rhesus monkey at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Kayaking Silver Springs: Exquisite trail for kayaks is highlight of Silver River

The new Silver Springs State Park near Ocala gives kayakers their first chance to launch at the famous springhead and paddle an exquisite waterway that has never been open to kayakers before.

2017 Florida Strawberry Festival: March 2-12

2017 Florida Strawberry Festival: March 2-12

Florida Rambler’s guide to the Florida Strawberry Festival in Plant City. Entertainment line-up, places to stay, places to eat, places to camp and things to do nearby.

This barred owl at Arbunkle Creek swiveled his head to follow us as we paddled under his tree.

Kayaking Arbuckle Creek: Unexpected beauty at a bombing range

Arbuckle Creek is a gorgeous river through an ancient cypress forest. It feels remote and wild but is convenient to Orlando and South Florida. It’s a gem, full of wildlife and magnificent scenery.

Wekiva River Basin’s stunning beauty invites paddlers, campers, hikers and bikers

Wekiva River Basin’s stunning beauty invites paddlers, campers, hikers and bikers

Not all of Central Florida’s magic is at Disney. North of Orlando is a vast ecological preserve that offers an abundance of recreational opportunities with unique exposure to Florida’s great outdoors.

Characters created to embody Florida blueberries

Florida Blueberry Festival, April 22-23, 2017: Explore wild Brooksville

The Florida Blueberry Festival highlights not just Florida’s blueberry crop but also Brooksville, a lovely unspoiled region of Florida that is a great place for hiking, biking, kayaking and exploring.

The historic Donnelly House in Mount Dora.

Mount Dora: Eight big weekend festivals plus year-round charm

Mount Dora is a historic town that has figured out how to keep people returning year after year — with events like this: Feb. 4-5 is the 41st Annual Arts Festival, attracting 285 artists and thousands of visitors.

January 2017 manatee festivals: Orange City and Crystal River

January 2017 manatee festivals: Orange City and Crystal River

Two large manatee festivals celebrate Florida’s beloved manatee every January – one in Orange City and one in Crystal River. These two locations are probably the best places in the state to see manatees well and in great numbers. First up: Jan. 14 and 15 in Crystal River.

Off a dirt road in the Arbuckle Tract Lake at Wales Ridge State Foresti s pretty  little Lake Godwin.

Discover Lake Wales Ridge State Forest for hiking, exploring, camping

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest is for explorers – folks who like to find places that aren’t in the guidebooks. Here you can hike for miles in the woods, hear only nature and have a chance to spot wildlife, including bear, bald eagles and endangered scrub jays.

Top hiking trails near Orlando: Little Big Econ State Forest

Top hiking trails near Orlando: Little Big Econ State Forest

Some of the best hiking near Orlando can be found at the Little Big Econ State Forest, where bluffs along a scenic river add interest. The forest is 5,000 acres preserved in a suburban area in the middle of the triangle formed by Orlando, Cocoa and Daytona Beach.

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge: Safe harbor for birds & other living things

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge: Safe harbor for birds & other living things

Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is a year-round refuge for birds and other living things, from the dazzling roseate spoonbills to the American bald eagle. During the fall migration, birding is especially good.

Honeymoon Island: A natural beach with comforts

Honeymoon Island: A natural beach with comforts

Honeymoon Island is an unusual combo: It’s accessible, with first-rate concessions, and yet it’s a big, natural beach where you can get away from people and see wildlife. And you have to love how it got its name.

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